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Chapter 23 : One
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It seemed to Ginny that, no matter how hard she pounded on Ron's door, he was never going to open it. She stared at the pristine white color, knocking her fist against it, but it remained where it was. Had Ginny not heard the clink of bottles against a table, she would have guessed that her brother was not home. As it was, Ginny had hoped that her brother would leave the house instead of flipping out and staying there. It was different if he went away. When Ron went away it meant he was really angry, but if he locked himself inside... that was when you knew there was a problem. With Ron, the running away was preferable. It meant that his emotions were high enough to manage by moving, by getting out of the situation. Plus, Ginny was off the hook for berating him, as she couldn't do that when he wasn't even home. But when Ron locked himself into his house, it meant that his emotions were too much to handle, too much to do anything about. That was when you knew you were in trouble.
“RONALD WEASLEY!” Ginny screamed in her best imitation of her mother. Molly seemed to be the only person who could get Ron to do anything besides Hermione. Ginny figured that if she could sound like her mother she might be able to scare him into opening the door. “I SWEAR TO MERLIN, IF YOU DON'T OPEN THE DOOR WITHIN THE NEXT TEN SECONDS I WILL KNOCK IT DOWN MYSELF!”
Silence. Ginny stepped back, directed her wand at the door and, for the sake of Ron, attempted to use alohomora. It didn't work. She cleared her throat, directed her wand towards the door and waved it in a circle. The door crumbled to pieces, and Ginny strode confidently into Ron's home before waving her wand to repair the door. As Ginny turned back towards Ron, she saw that Ron's face remained completely expressionless. The woman put her hands on her hips and glared at him, taking in the recently grown beard on his chin. Yikes. If Ron wasn't shaving it meant that they were probably going to be in this predicament for a while. As she watched, Ron raised a bottle to his lips and drank generously. Ginny raised her eyebrows angrily, then snatched the bottle away from him. From her purse she procured a sobering potion.
“I'm not drinking that,” Ron said, slurring his words slightly.
“I will force it down your throat if you don't drink it yourself. And you know I can.”
“I don't want to be sober,” Ron argued childishly. “It's awful.”
“Look, I know you're upset, but I need to talk to you. Sober.”
Ron stared at her, and she raised her wand threateningly.
“Fine,” he grumbled, taking the potion and sipping it. He gasped as the headache suddenly hit, and Ginny nodded, satisfied.
“There,” she said. Sighing, Ron sunk even deeper into his chair.
“I hate my life. I want a new one.”
Now Ginny's expression was concerned. She sunk onto the couch across from Ron, keeping her eyes on his face. Her response was so simple Ron wondered if it really was Ginny sitting there and staring at him.
The man took in her expression, purely filled with guilt. He frowned.
“Why do you look like that?”
Her brown eyes, so different from Hermione's, flicked away from his, coming to rest on the bookshelf leaning against the wall. One glance at her hands showed Ron that she was wringing them together, agitation so strong it was like an aura around her.
“Don't you hate me?” she burst out, biting her lip as she continued to look away from him.
“Why would I hate you?” Ron asked, puzzled.
“Because of my involvement in the whole thing!” Ginny cried, leaping up and beginning to pace.
“Involvement?” Ron repeated, now thoroughly confused.
“This whole mess is my fault!” Ginny moaned.
“How is it your fault?” Ron responded, staring at her oddly. “You found out about two weeks ago.”
Ginny stopped pacing and turned to stare at him.
“What are you talking about?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Hermione's baby,” Ginny said, kneading her hands together.
“Yeah, that's what I'm talking about too.”
“Ron, what did Hermione tell you about Rose and me?”
“She said that she'd told you and Harry a few weeks ago and you were still trying to decide whether or not to tell me when she told me.”
Ginny swore loudly, causing Ron's eyes to snap open in shock.
“Oh god,” groaned Ginny. “She... she lied to save me, didn't she?”
“What are you on about?” Ron snapped, an anxious feeling suddenly developing in his stomach.
“She didn't tell you the truth,” Ginny breathed, amazement on her face. “And she must have made herself sound so much worse in the process.”
“Ginny,” Ron hissed, now feeling supremely frustrated, “what happened if she lied to me? Tell me the goddamn truth, for once!”
“Okay,” Ginny said hastily, and she began her pacing once again. “Two years ago, I was at your home, cleaning up after you because you sure as hell weren't cleaning up after yourself.”
“Right...” Ron said, his expression still vexed.
“I was in the kitchen when an owl flew in. I recognized it as Hermione's, and seeing as we hadn't seen hide nor hair of her in months I... I opened it.”
“You opened my mail?” Ron said angrily. “How many times do I have to tell you not to go through my stuff?”
“Okay, I recognize that me doing so is annoying to you, but it's not the most imminent issue here.”
“Sorry,” Ron said, only slightly ashamed of his outburst. “Er- what did the letter say?”
“I thought you'd ask that. Granted, I figured you already knew more than you did when I got here. But still, I brought it.”
“You've kept it all this time?”
“You don't throw something like this away,” Ginny told him as she handed him a very torn and faded piece of parchment, across which endearingly familiar and gorgeous handwriting appeared.
I want to thank you for your letter- the one you sent to Viktor Krum. He forwarded it to me and asked me if maybe I should reconsider. It was too late, of course. I'd already seen you with that woman, already realized that you were done with me. But it was that, and the other news I have, the news I'm about to tell you, that has really made it a struggle for me not to come running back to you. And as you know how awful I am at sharing personal feelings, you must have known that those words were extremely difficult for me to write down. But what the hell. I'm going all out for this letter. This news, Ron... well, for months it's just become a more pressing issue to tell you. So I suppose I must. I hope you don't hate me once I do.
Ron, I'm going to have a baby. It's yours (obviously) and it's a girl. I know that you're probably quite busy with your new relationship with that woman I saw you with, which is why I'm giving you a choice. Ron, if you don't want to be a father, you don't have to be one. She'll inevitably be yours, but you don't have to be hers. If that makes any sense. Oh, and by the way... she's a kicker, our daughter. I'm convinced that she's going to be a Quidditch player- probably a Keeper, because they're the ones that use their feet sometimes, right? God, Ron, I already love her so much. She's yours and mine and I didn't know I could ever love someone so much without ever meeting them.
Oh god. I just reread that sentence. Ours. Ours, ours, ours. You, Ronald Weasley, and I, Hermione Granger, have a baby. If anyone had told me when I was seventeen that you were going to be the father of my child one day, I can't imagine how joyful I would have felt at the idea that we made it. Except we didn't. We were close, though. So close. I never wanted it this way. When I pictured having a child with you, I had this whole image of how I would tell you I was pregnant. It certainly wasn't through a letter. It was wonderful. Maybe I'll save it.
Today is the start of my eighth month. She's almost here. Well, if you want to contact me just send a letter with this owl. If you send her back without an answer I'll know you don't want to be apart of our lives. And I'll accept that. Enjoy your time with Perdita. I wish you happiness with whoever may offer you that. Good luck, Ron. Always, -Hermione.
He read it quickly, soaking in her words and telling himself over and over again that he wasn't in love with her. He felt like his heart was breaking all over again reading her words. He could feel the ache behind them and realized how badly she had wanted him to know, how much she'd wanted him in her life. Which made him wonder why she had initially made the decision to keep Rose from him. It couldn't just be because she didn't get a response- she knew that he didn't know. She must have known, it was impossible that she didn't. But what had changed? A nagging feeling in Ron's stomach told him that his little sister may have played a much larger part in this fiasco than he had initially thought.
“What happened next, Ginny?” Ron asked, surreptitiously pocketing the letter so that he could peruse it a thousand more times later.
“I was going to tell you,” Ginny said, her tone desperate, “honest, I was Ron! But then I peered into the living room and I saw you. Drunk as hell, you didn't seem to be in any fit state to be a father. Not then, and not in the month you would had to recuperate, and being the father to Hermione's child wouldn't help. It would take away the pain for a little while and then you would be stuck facing the same problems.”
“We loved each other,” Ron pointed out.
“And you still do.”
“Who are you kidding?” Ron asked angrily.
“No one. Who are you kidding?” Ginny retorted.
“I'm not going to argue with you about this,” Ron snorted. “What happened next?”
“I went home with the letter. I talked myself into sending the owl back without your response, simultaneously breaking Hermione's heart.”
Ron's eyes began to water and he cleared his throat several times before allowing himself to speak.
“I want to ask you how you could do that to me, but I think I'd prefer not to know.”
“Next, I realized that what I'd done was wrong. So... so I paid Aimee a visit.”
“What the hell does Aimee have to do with any of this?”
“She promised to keep her eyes peeled for Hermione, to notify me when she got to the hospital. Less than a month later I got an owl. Hermione was at St. Mungo's. Her mum had dropped her off only to realize that muggles can't get in. She had just given birth and she was all alone.”
“Oh god,” Ron said, horrified. “Oh god.”
“I went to the hospital and I found her there and... do you want to see it?”
“Pensive.” Ginny said simply. “Didn't Hermione have one?”
Ron bit his lip.
“Yeah, she did. I'm not sure whether or not she took it, but if she didn't it would be in the den,” he managed to choke out. With a curt nod, Ginny exited the room, coming back a minute later coughing, her nose wrinkled in disgust.
“When was the last time you cleaned in there?” she asked, clutching the pensive.
“I don't remember,” Ron replied.
“I'm shocked,” Ginny said sarcastically. “Oh, by the way, you have a boggart in a desk drawer,” she added, putting her wand to her temple, about to draw out a memory.
“Wait!” Ron cried, snatching her wrist with his hand. “Ginny, are you sure you want to lose this memory?”
“It means more to you than it does me,” was Ginny's response as she took the memory from her brain, a resolute expression on her face. “Here,” she finished, dropping it into the pensive. Not altogether convinced he was ready to see this, Ron took a deep breath before falling into the memory.
Her face was pink but glowing as she stared down at the small bundle in her arms. Ron couldn't see his child because of the way Hermione was holding Rose, but he thought that his daughter had a very long body for an infant. He decided that this meant Rose was going to be tall, and then turned his attention back to Hermione. She was cradling Rose with tears in her eyes, half smiling, half crying. As Ron watched she bit her lip in a way that showed nervousness, then reached up a trembling finger to stroke the little girls' cheek.
“Oh god,” Hermione whispered, breaking down into tears more completely. “He doesn't want us, Rose, but we're his. What a mess.” She wiped the tears from her eyes, seeming angry at herself for crying. “Rose,” Hermione said, her expression determined, “I promise that you will know him but you will not need him. I'm going to ensure you never know how much I miss him and want him with us. He made a choice, and you are not going to be effected by your father's idiocy.”
Ron was startled as Ginny stepped out of her hiding place. He had known she would appear in the memory, known she must have seen all this, but he was so focused on Hermione he'd forgotten. Apparently, his ex was startled, too. She shrieked in surprise, then attempted to rearrange the warm pink blankets.
“Trying to hide her hair?” Ginny asked, sitting on Hermione's bed. “Don't bother. I know she's Ron's. Who else's would she be?”
“Viktor?” Hermione suggested half heartedly. “Draco Malfoy? McLaggan?”
“Yeah right,” Ginny snorted. There was silence as the two of them stared down at Rose.
“Ron doesn't want her,” Hermione said finally. The pain in her voice was so raw Ginny visibly winced.
“You don't know that.”
“Oh yes I do. I sent an owl-”
“An owl that I received and intercepted,” Ginny finished for her.
Hermione's eyes bugged out of her head.
“You did what?” she screeched, causing Rose to begin to cry. Hermione tried to set aside her seething emotions and comfort her baby. Ginny just sat there, her expression unchanging and ever patient. “Did... did you show him the letter?” Hermione asked, her expression still disbelieving.
“It's nice that you think I'm a good enough person to do that, but no, I did not show him the letter.”
“So Ron doesn't know that I just gave birth to his child,” Hermione said, struggling to keep her emotions in check.
“No, not at all. He's currently at home drinking his troubles away.”
Hermione's hand flew to her mouth.
“We have to tell him.”
“We can't tell him.”
“Why not?” Hermione demanded, her face red with anger as she attempted to be gentle with Rose.
“Because he's a mess right now,” Ginny said sadly.
“Over what?” Hermione inquired.
“You,” was Ginny's short response. “He misses you and he wants you back.”
“I want him back! In spite of everything, even Perdita, I can't bloody stop loving the man!”
“Oh Hermione. Don't you see? Taking Ron back won't change anything.”
“So what am I suppose to do?”
“Give it time,” Ginny suggested.
“Ginny,” Hermione snapped, “we have a baby. There is no such thing as time when you have a child. Either I tell him now or I suffer the consequences later.”
“Hermione, he acts like a twenty-three year old child. It's been nine months and he is still in a ridiculous depression. He spends all his time at work, and the few minutes he spends at home are spent exquisitely drunk. He is a mess, and he isn't fit to be a father.”
Ron winced at her harsh words, but refused to look away from the nightmare unfolding before him.
“But it's his right!” Hermione was arguing. “Besides, maybe being a dad will pull him out of his depression.”
“No,” Ginny said harshly. “You don't understand. You haven't seen him. We... we can't fix him like that. He has to do it on his own. If you go back with him the two of you will be facing the same issues that you were before. Besides, we can't indulge him like that. You train a baby to stop crying at night by leaving it alone.”
“But that's exactly the issue! The baby. Rose changes everything.”
“If you let him be a dad now, he will be a horrible father,” Ginny stated, articulating her words very carefully.
“I hardly think-”
“Yes it will make a difference!” Ginny exclaimed, leaping up from the bed. “Look, Hermione. If you tell him now this is how your life is going to be. You're going to get married because you have to. Ron will still be jealous. You'll still hate yourself for working too much. And you both will still lean on your past to ensure that you don't have to grow for the future. Except that's even worse with the kid. You'll fall right out of love with each other, you'll stop being affectionate, you'll stop having sex. Everything in your life will boil down to resentment. Rose will sense it and it will wreck her childhood and scar her for life.”
Hermione stared at her, stricken.
“Oh god,” she said eventually.
“Yeah,” Ginny agreed.
“I can't tell him.”
“No, you can't. Not now anyways.”
“When do I tell then?” Hermione asked, pleading for answers.
“When he's ready,” Ginny responded, looking nearly as heartbroken as Hermione, “and I promise I'll tell you when he's ready. You know how important family is to me. I wouldn't be asking if it wasn't completely essential. And I know I shouldn't be here in the first place, but I'm a Weasley. We meddle.”
“Okay,” she said, just as a nurse came in.
“Excuse me, Ms. Granger,” she said, coming over to the bed with a clipboard at the ready. “You haven't told me the details of what you want on your baby's birth certificate.”
“Right,” Hermione said, looking nervous again. “Yeah, right.”
“I'll go,” Ginny said, flashing a weak smile in Hermione's direction. “I'll be back later.”
She stood up and acted like she was going to leave, but quickly ducked behind a curtain. Ron knew she wanted to see what her niece was named.
“Her first name is Rose,” Hermione said quietly. “It's my grandmother's name, and the first letter of her father's. And the middle name is Elizabeth, for my wonderful mother.”
Ron saw Ginny smile softly, the melancholy look disturbingly evident on her face.
“And her last name, Ms. Granger?” the nurse asked tentatively, noticing Hermione's hesitation and the lack of a man in the room.
“Weasley,” Hermione whispered, a tear slipping down one of her cheeks.
The nurse's eyebrows shot up. Everyone in the wizarding world had heard of the heartbreaking split of Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. There was now no doubt in her mind as to who the father was. Motherly as she was, the nurse picked up instantly on the look that Hermione's face wore as she spoke Ron's name, so nostalgic and gentle, but not without pain. It was then that the nurse realized what others had only guessed at. Hermione Granger was still in love with her ex fiancée. Sympathy was practically radiating from the older woman as she requested Hermione tell her what name should appear on the birth certificate as Rose's father, just to follow procedure even though she knew who it was.
“Her father,” said Hermione, tracing a line on Rose's soft cheek and letting a watery smile appear on her face, “is Ronald Bilius Weasley.” Shaking her head, the nurse walked away. “He doesn't know,” Hermione sighed happily, falling back against the pillows, “he might still want us, Rose. He might have us someday.”
Ron felt himself get tossed out of the memory as waves of pain washed over his body. He hid his head in his hands, once again unwilling to let Ginny see this emotion he was feeling. Watching that moment was unreal, a privilege he had never thought he would be privy to. It was such a private moment in Hermione’s life, he couldn’t believe he had seen it, and it made him warm inside when he thought of the look on her face when she’d realized he hadn’t known. That meant he hadn’t rejected her, it hinted at the idea of a possibility of the future.
“She’s been back for months,” he stated, now glaring at Ginny as a surge of anger came over him.
“Why didn’t she tell me? If she wanted me so badly, that is.”
“What part do you think telling you should have been done at? ‘Hello, long time no see’? Or maybe when you were at each other’s throats pretending to be married and engaged. Or, oooh, wait, how about during that whole part where you were shagging each other silly every minute of every day,” Ginny snapped. Then she paused, her voice becoming softer. “Besides, she was scared.”
It was the same reason Hermione had given, but Ron didn’t think it was any excuse at all. Alright, she was scared, and for good reason, too, but that didn’t mean any of it was right.
“That’s extremely stupid,” he said, rolling his eyes at Ginny.
“And yet you still love her.”
He turned away from Ginny, pretending to be indignant. It was some time before she spoke again, but when she did her words hit Ron like a ton of bricks.
“What?” Ron asked, springing around.
“She’s leaving for France.”
“When’s she coming back?”
Ron tried to pretend like the panic he felt consuming him was from the idea of losing Rose, when in fact he was terrified at the idea of never seeing Hermione again.
“Er- what?” was his confused response, because his brain was still trying to comprehend this idea.
“She told you to contact her when you were ready to meet Rose. It’s been weeks and you- hot headed, impatient Ron Weasley- haven’t done so yet. She thinks that’s your way of saying you don’t want Rose.”
Ron’s first thought was to wonder how Hermione could think so little of him if she had known him so long. Then he realized that she didn’t think little of him- she thought little of herself. And that was half of why this whole situation had arisen in the first place. But then the pity left him and was taken over by that alarm he felt at the prospect of losing Hermione and his daughter.
“Bloody hell,” Ron swore, ripping the door to his home open and dashing outside.
“Where are you going?” Ginny shouted after him, but she wasn’t surprised when Ron didn’t answer her. “That’s my boy,” she muttered triumphantly, watching him spin on the spot and disapparate into thin air.
Ginny suspected quite correctly that Ron had brought himself to the Granger residence. She knew that was where he knew Rose was, and was sure Hermione would be there too. Upon reaching the Granger home he sprinted up the small steps to the door and slammed his fist against it. It was opened almost instantly by an older woman who let out a small squeak when she saw Ron.
“Ron!” she gasped, her eyes widening. “What are you doing here?”
He was glad Mrs. Granger remembered him. Then again, it was probably hard to forget the father of your daughter’s daughter.
“I need to see Hermione,” he said firmly.
“How did you know she was here?” asked Mrs. Granger a little faintly, but she was jostled aside as a gruff man came to stand next to her.
“Sorry, son. You can’t come in.”
“And why not?”
“You’ve caused my daughter enough heartbreak,” he said, narrowing his eyes. “I’m not letting you near her.”
“You don’t know what’s best for her! She’s twenty-five, she can make her own choices.”
“The choice to move is because of you. So I’m going to do her a favor and make sure she doesn’t see you before she leaves.”
“Like hell,” Ron roared, and then he pushed past the two of them and up to Hermione’s room, skipping up the stairs three at a time. Unceremoniously, he threw the door open what he saw took his breath away. Hermione, not having heard him come in, was seated in a rocking chair, a small redheaded child in her lap. She appeared to be telling Rose a story, but Ron had no problem interrupting it. He cleared his throat and Hermione’s head whipped up, while Rose’s whipped around.
“Ron!” Hermione cried, shocked. Her eyes turned from him to Rose, and Ron too focused on the child. His hair, Hermione’s eyes. She was a beautiful and perfect mix of them, and he felt love he didn’t know he possessed burst through his system. Rose glanced curiously at her mother, then back at Ron.
“Daddy?” she asked questioningly. Ron bit back the urge to swear as he realized how much he was shaking. Hermione was trembling, too. Somehow she managed to nod her head.
“Yes, daddy,” she replied, her eyes leaving Rose to stare up at Ron. “That’s your daddy.”
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